b. 21st.May 1922; d. 20th.April 2015
In 1937 having expressed an interest in a career at sea, Jim (aged 15) joined the training ship HMS Worcester, moored on the Thames at Greenhythe. In the summer of 1939, the year he was awarded the Worcester Silver Medal, he was accepted by P & O to sail as a Deck Apprentice and appointed to the liner RMS Strathaird due to sail to India in September. However the war intervened and Jim (now 19) was sent to Devonport as a Midshipman to join HMS Shikari, an aging destroyer commissioned in 1924. One of its first jobs was Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk in May 1940. In total Shikari made seven evacuation runs, these included helping to save 3,000 French Troops from the steamer Prague that had been badly damaged by enemy action. On 1st.June Shikari was damaged by bombing but continued to make evacuation runs. At 0340 on the night of 3 / 4 June she was the last vessel to leave Dunkirk having embarked in total 3,349 troops. After this, Shikari returned to North Atlantic Convoy duties based in Londonderry with the 2nd.Escort Group. On the 24th.December she suffered serious storm damage whilst south of Iceland – loosing the bridge and funnel.
Jim’s next appointment was to HMS Panther on her commissioning in April 1942. The first task was running from Scapa Flow to Norway to launch two human torpedoes, which were shipped in the sea-boat davits, to attack the Tirpitz. On her return Panther was sent via the Cape to the India Ocean, where following the sinking of the Cruisers, His Majesty’s Ships Cornwall and Dorsetshire off Ceylon, Panther assisted in the rescue of approx 1,120 men. In May 1942 she sunk the Vichy French Submarine Monge.
Back in home waters, as part of an escort for a convoy that included the troopship SS Strathallan (a P & O liner) carrying troops for Operation Torch, the North African landings, on the 21st.December Strathallan was torpedoed. Panther with Jim as Pilot (navigator) under command of Lt Cdr Viscount Jocelyn RN, with other destroyers, went alongside and took on board the crew and troops, including General Eisenhower’s staff, and delivered them to Oran. Later in 1943 the flotilla moved back to the Mediterranean to serve as part of the Sicily invasion fleet. On 9th.October at 1205 she was attacked by a Junkers Stuka, which scored a direct hit in her boiler room. Panther sank within a minute. The Greek destroyer Miaoulis picked up survivors. Jim had quite a long swim before he was assisted aboard. Tired and wet he fell asleep and was thought to be missing.
After a fortnight’s leave Jim was appointed to HMS Virago prior to her commissioning at Swan Hunter’s yard on the Tyne in November 1943. Jim, now a Lieutenant was the Navigator (Pilot). No sooner was the ship at sea than the action began. She did seven Arctic Convoys, the first one included action in the Battle of the North Cape, on Boxing Day 1943, Virago administering the coupe de grace (by torpedoes) to the German Battleship Scharnhorst, after its engagement with HMS Duke of York. The 6th. June saw Virago back off Normandy firing on the German positions behind Lion-sur-Mer on Sword Beach, and then giving covering fire for the advancing troops. Early in 1945 Virago, now part of the 26th.Destroyer Flotilla, transferred to the Eastern Fleet. She and Vigilant (with Jim’s old friend Angus Baber as Navigator), as part of the five destroyers comprising the 26th.Flotilla took part in the final naval gun and torpedo action of the war. The destroyers armed with 4.5 inch guns and torpedoes, hunted down and attacked the Japanese Heavy Cruiser Haguro. Haguro armed with 10 eight inch guns was at the time the most heavily armed cruiser in the world, one can hardly imagine the feelings of Jim and his shipmates as they closed in on Haguro and its destroyer escort (Kamikazi). The action went well with Haguro being sunk and the only minimal damage to the Flotilla Leader (HMS Saumarez) and very few British casualties. Jim was Mentioned in Dispatches. Virago returned to Chatham in December 1945, when Jim, now 23, turned into a civilian, but remained in the Naval Reserve, he was later awarded his Reserve Decoration. In 2013 the Lord Lieutenant at the Exeter Flotilla Trafalgar Service presented Jim with the Arctic Star. Last year he received the Ushakov Medal awarded by the President of the Russia Federation to those who took part in the Russian Convoys.
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